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Friday, April 3, 2015


Well, one thing's for sure--this isn't your older brother's Teen Titans. I remember reading the original comics in which Batman's sidekick Robin joined with other underage heroes to fight crime as sort of a junior Justice League. After that came the serious "Teen Titans" and parodic "New Teen Titans" cartoons which were part of Cartoon Network's "DC Nation." But with TEEN TITANS GO!: APPETITE FOR DISRUPTION SEASON 2 PART 1 (2-disc DVD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) the super kids have been given their most farcical makeover in the Genndy Tartakovsky style.

A natural successor to the "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Powerpuff Girls" type of anime-influenced action/comedy, with elements of "Samurai Jack" as well, "Teen Titans Go!" is bright, sharply drawn and animated, and lightning fast. In fact, its rapid-fire succession of jokes and visual gags takes a bit of getting used to at first. But once you've settled into the pace and the non-stop barrage of silliness coming at you, these cartoons are actually pretty breezy and amusing, and often genuinely funny.

For one of the few times since the 1966 "Batman" TV series, I actually like Robin, the group's self-proclaimed leader (he's the only one who bothered to vote in the election) because here he's depicted as a sawed-off holy terror with an enormous ego, a tantrum-prone temper, and a love-crazy crush on fellow teen Starfire which tends to override any other concerns.

The alien Starfire is all sparkly-pink, girly "Strawberry Shortcake"-ness, in stark contrast to the other female in the group, Raven, a dark and aloof half-demon Goth who wields the power of black magic. She's the unrequited love of Beast Boy, who can assume the shape of any animal but feels inadequate in his own pint-sized body. The team's brawniest member is Beast Boy's imposing yet easygoing pal Cyborg, a multi-capable combination of human and machine.

The Teen Titans watch over Jump City from their T-shaped tower headquarters on an island in the bay, where they get into more conflict with each other than they do with such supervillains as The Brain, Dr. Light, Control Freak, Trigon, and the Mad Mod. Sometimes their squabbles are romance related, with Robin and Beast Boy constantly pulling every trick in the book to win the affections of Starfire and Raven, respectively. Heated clashes of egos are also not uncommon as superpowers come into play in reckless and hazardous ways.

Episode one's title "Mr. Butt" refers to Robin, whose writhing rump is pleasing to the eye of Starfire's evil sister, Blackfire. This opening segment, in which Blackfire pretends to bury the hatchet with her sister only to trick her into taking the rap for her crimes, is a good introduction to the characters and the overall feel of the series. (A brief rundown on the rest of the episodes can be found below.)

The 2-disc DVD set from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (26 episodes, 11 minutes each) is in matted widescreen with English, Spanish, and Portuguese Dolby surround sound. Subtitles are in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Extras consist of ten "New Teen Titans" shorts which bridged the gap between the original "Teen Titans" cartoons and the present series. These are just as wacky as "Teen Titans Go!" but are drawn in more classic anime style.

It finally occurred to me while watching TEEN TITANS GO!: APPETITE FOR DISRUPTION SEASON 2 PART 1 that these ultra-hyper cartoons play as though the scripts had been dictated on tape by a Red Bull-fueled Robin Williams and animated by Tex Avery at his most unhinged. Brimming with imagination and eye-candy visuals, they're the exhilarating audio-visual equivalent of a sugar rush.

Episodes (11 minute runtime each):

1.Mr. Butt -- See above.

2.Man Person -- Beast Boy is injured and gets a scar. Thinking it makes him look more manly, he starts doing other scar-inducing things to his body until he's more of a cyborg than Cyborg.

3.Pirates -- Wil Wheaton voices undersea pretty boy Aqualad, who competes with Beast Boy for the dubious affections of a disinterested Raven.

4.I See You -- Robin tricks his heartthrob Starfire into going on a "stakeout" with him, which yields unexpected results when they stumble upon Dr. Light's latest nefarious scheme.

5.Brian -- The Titans are captured by The Brain and it's up to their animal and robot friends such as Birdarang and Painbot to come to the rescue.

6.Nature -- Too much civilization threatens to take away Beast Boy's animal-morphing powers, so he must return to the wild--where he encounters Mother Nature herself--to get them back.

7.Salty Codgers -- Mad Mod turns all but Raven into old people in a sequence that cleverly spoofs "Yellow Submarine" and Terry Gilliam cartoons. Raven, however, thinks old people are cute and is happy about it until her friends start dying of old age. Her journey into the underworld to confront Death (who has a funky theme song) is a bizarre trip into cartoon surrealism.

8.Knowledge -- Starfire becomes too smart for her own good when her brain expands to massive proportions. This episode has some cool parodies of "Schoolhouse Rock", the "Outer Limits" episode "The Sixth Finger", and the sci-fi classic FANTASTIC VOYAGE (when the rest of the Titans shrink to microscopic size and battle Starfire's inner brain).

9.Love Monsters -- Starfire can't help showing affection to two cute but deadly little demon-creatures whose evil thrives on love. Can she turn mean before her teammates are destroyed?

10.Baby Hands -- Brother Blood erases everyone's memory except for Robin's, which gives him a chance to reboot their image of him with outlandish stories of how great he is.

11.Caramel Apples -- Raven's demonic dad Trigon shows up to destroy Jump City because Raven didn't give him a Father's Day present. But sweet Starfire steps in to become the doting daughter he never had, making Raven jealous. Meanwhile, Robin, Cyborg, and Beast Boy must find their way back after being condemned to the underworld along with Starfire's kitty cat.

12.Halloween -- Raven tries to get her friends excited about Halloween again by invoking a horrible Jack-o-Lantern spirit, which then goes on a scary rampage of terror.

13.Sandwich Thief -- Robin creates the perfect sandwich, but it gains sentience and evolves into a diabolical villain. The only solution involves a trip to the future and a visit to Future Robin!

14.Money Grandma -- Robin goes head-to-head with none other than George Washington (whom Cyborg and Beast Boy know as the "old lady" on the dollar bill) for the position of Teen Titans group leader. The fight gets really dirty, too!

15.Friendship -- Control Freak banishes the Titans to the land of "Pretty Pretty Pegasus", a sickly-sweet "My Little Pony" clone which just happens to be Raven's favorite show.

16.Vegetables -- Beast Boy convinces his meat-loving pals to turn vegetarian--but will that help them defeat the evil Vegeto?

17.The Mask -- Robin refuses to de-mask and show his face to his pals until they force him into revealing the shocking truth!

18.Slumber Party -- Cyborg's fear of the dark prompts the team to help him by having a fun-filled slumber party--which is crashed by Scary Teri, the witch from the mirror.

19.Serious Business -- A really insane episode in which Robin tries to enforce a five-minute bathroom limit and must be taught why the bathroom is such a magical place of wonder. Highlights include Cyborg's snappy musical interlude "Pee-Pee Dance."

20.Thanksgiving -- Robin's plans to impress special guest Batman on Turkey Day are ruined by Trigon and a horde of hungry rats.

21.Boys vs. Girls -- When the boys and the girls compete to see who's the best, Robin uses his secret weapon: cooties.

22.Body Adventure -- The team shrinks to microscopic size again to fight Cyborg's virus from the inside.

23.Road Trip -- Cyborg takes everyone on a long drive in his favorite car but the trip becomes a desperate battle against the villainous Hive.

24.The Best Robin -- Laziness infects the Titans, forcing Robin to call on his other team--Team Robin. A fierce competition then ensues to see who's the best.

25.Mouth Hole -- Robin's position as leader is in jeopardy when it's discovered that he can't whistle.

26.Hot Garbage -- The smell from Beast Boy's garbage-filled room temporarily kills the other Titans. After reviving, they try to cure him of his garbage-hording ways but get more than they bargained for when the garbage fights back.

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